Paleontology in the Land of Color
A Fossil Survey of Petrified Forest National Park
October 1, 2023 @ 10:00 am – October 6, 2023 @ 12:00 pm MST
Instructor: Christa Sadler, M.S. and Petrified Forest National Park Paleontology Staff
Petrified Forest National Park is deservedly known as one of the best records of Late Triassic paleontology and geology in the world. New paleontological discoveries are made with impressive regularity here, expanding the knowledge of this seminal time in the history of life on our planet. In addition, the archeological record at the park is an important piece of regional prehistory. Moreover, it is one of the most beautiful and fantastical landscapes anywhere!
Join Petrified Forest NP paleontologists and paleontologist Christa Sadler for an exploration of the paleontology and archeology of some of the newly acquired parklands. We will car-camp in a remote area of the park (one which does not receive tourist visitation), and from this base camp, we will prospect in the surrounding badlands for new fossil localities and excavate fossils at known localities. We will have a chance to learn prep work in the paleontological lab and have time to explore the region for petroglyphs, incredible scenery, and whatever else we discover.
General Subjects Covered
- Regional geology and Mesozoic stratigraphy
- Geology and Stratigraphy of the Chinle Formation and relations to other Late Triassic formations worldwide
- History, Geology, and Stratigraphy of Petrified Forest National Park
- An overview of the Permian-Triassic extinction and Mesozoic paleontology: what changed and what didn’t?
- Paleontological investigations in the Chinle Formation and at Petrified Forest in particular
- Timeline of prehistory at Petrified Forest National Park
- Paleontological prospecting, excavation, and preparation techniques
Note: This schedule depends on weather, road conditions, what we find, etc. Flexibility regarding the timing and order of events is the most important thing you’ll bring with you!
- Day 1 – October 1, 2023: Meet at the Rainbow Forest Museum at the south end of the park at 10:00 AM (Arizona time). We will have an introduction to the geology and paleontology of the region and of the park. After lunch, we will explore some nearby areas and take a short hike or two to get to know some of the more popular areas of the park. Later in the afternoon we will move to our base camp in the Cedar Tank Badlands and set up camp.
- Note: We will need to carpool to camp in as few high-clearance vehicles as possible. We will need to get permits for any cars left at the Visitor Center or the Painted Desert Inn. Depending on the condition of the road, we will need to be flexible as to how much we do before we head out to camp.
- Day 2 – October 2, 2023: We will spend the morning at the paleontological lab and collections with the park paleontologists. They will introduce us to the region’s paleontology and archeology, as well as the history of science at the park. In the afternoon, we will take a longer hike to acquaint ourselves with portions of the park that are a little more off the beaten path.
- Day 3 – October 3, 2023: We will spend the day excavating and prospecting. We may take a hike at some point just to stretch our legs and visit some other areas in the vicinity, such as Red Basin and the Paulsell Clambeds.
- Day 4 – October 4, 2023: We will spend the day excavating and prospecting.
- Day 5 – October 5, 2023: Part of the day we will excavate and/or prospect, and we will take a hike to visit the Billings Gap Petroglyph Site, as well as prospect for archeological sites. We will finish up with any last excavating.
- Day 6 – October 6, 2023: We will pack up camp and move to the paleontology lab, where we will have a chance to learn some fossil preparation techniques. The class will finish around lunchtime.
All dinners will be provided. Participants will need to be responsible for their breakfasts and lunches. We will have a full camp set up, and coolers with ice for anything participants want to keep cold.
We will have a full kitchen with stove and water, rain tarp, as well as a toilet set up.
General Gear and Clothing List (a more specific list will be sent with your registration material):
- Sleeping bag, pad, ground cloth, pillow, blanket, etc.
- Camp chair
- Hiking boots
- Camp shoes
- Lightweight pants
- Pair of warm pants or sweatpants
- Knee pads or pad to sit on while excavating
- Three liters of water capacity
- A roll of toilet paper
- Sun hat
- Warm jacket and lightweight fleece or sweatshirt
- Long-sleeved sun shirt
- Rain gear
- Warm hat and gloves
- Work gloves. Something like Atlas or other Nitrile style gloves or lightweight cotton garden gloves. Something that will protect your hands but not be too thick to work with for finer detail.
- Headlamp, binoculars, camera, toiletries, sunscreen, notebook, etc. (the usual kit)
- Mess kit, mug, and eating utensils
Petrified Forest NP will provide excavation tools, but we can always use a few extra things: whisk broom and dustpan, rock hammer, and small paint brushes. If you have any of these things that can be used fairly hard, please bring them, but you don’t need to buy them specifically for this trip.
The temperatures during the day will be in the mid-90s and at night in the high 50s. We may still get some monsoon weather, so it’s a good idea to bring rain gear.
- $650 – Non-Member
- $600 – Member *Learn more at PFMA site
Maximum number of participants: 8
Age restriction: Adults only (over 15, unless with special permission)